Żarski Ignacy is the consul for public affairs at the consulate general of the Republic of Poland in Los Angeles. On Holocaust and Heroism Memorial, at the MOT (Museum Of Tolerance), in Los Angeles, Mr. Ignacy wore a yellow daffodil lapel pin, which aroused my curiosity. Inquisitive as I am, here is the yellow daffodils story.
Symbolic Yellow Daffodils
The yellow daffodil is a symbol of the Warsaw Ghetto, Poland uprising.
Almost all 500,000 Warsaw Jews perished in Ghetto Warsaw, whether they fell in the Uprising or were exterminated in Nazi concentration camps, among them were my paternal grandparents, my father’s parents, Aryeh (Leib) and Chaya and his two brothers, my uncles, Nachum and Mordechai.
The Hero Marek Edelman
Marek Edelman was a Polish-Jewish political and social activist and a cardiologist. Before his death in 2009, Edelman was the last surviving leader of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
The book Zdążyć przed Panem Bogiem (Outwit God) (Polish), authors, Hanna Krall and Marek Edelman, is about Marek Edelman, the hero, whose biography has become a literary document of the tragic history of Polish Jews. Edelman was the deputy commander of the Warsaw Jewish underground, the Fighting Organization. After the war he worked as a heart surgeon, winning international acclaim.
Hanna Krall was born in Warsaw in a Jewish family. During World War II, many of her immediate family were murdered. Miraculously she was saved during transport to the ghetto and survived the war only because she was hidden from the Germans. Eventually the Holocaust and the fate of Polish Jews became the main subject of her authorship creativity.
Warsaw Ghetto Uprising
The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising was the 1943 act of Jewish resistance that arose within the Warsaw Ghetto in German-occupied Poland during World War II, and which opposed Nazi Germany’s final effort to liquidate the Ghetto and transport the remaining Jewish Ghetto population to Treblinka extermination camp.
On 19 April 1943, on the eve of Passover, the police and SS auxiliary forces entered Ghetto Warsaw. They were planning to complete the deportation of Jews to their death within three days. However, they were ambushed by Jewish insurgents firing and tossing Molotov cocktails and hand grenades from alleyways, sewers, and windows. The Germans suffered 59 casualties and their advance bogged down. Two of their combat vehicles were set on fire by insurgent petrol bombs. This is how the Warsaw Ghetto uprising began and lasted one month.
The uprising started on 19 April when the Ghetto refused to surrender to the police commander SS-Brigadeführer Jürgen Stroop, who then ordered the burning of the Ghetto, block by block, ending on 16 May.
13,000 Jews died, about half of them burnt alive or suffocated. German casualties are not known, but were not more than 300. It was the largest single revolt by Jews during World War II.
The Story of the Yellow Daffodils
In her book, Krall writes that every year on April 19 an anonymous person, Adelman believed was a woman, sent a bundle of yellow flowers to him and he always received the flowers, no matter where he was at the time, whether Warsaw, Łódź, Poznań or Paris.
When, in 1983 the Warsaw Uprising became a public event in Poland, loads of yellow flowers started to be delivered and this custom continues till today. The yellow flowers, possibly sent by the strange woman, always stood out and appeared special.
Yellow Daffodil Pin
A few years before Marek Edelman died, the special yellow flowers stopped coming, probably because the sender passed away.
Message and Tribute
The daffodil is a good symbol that conveys the message it is associated with the ongoing tribute to Marek Edelman, showing how the citizenry is active in this important event, which is part of Poland’s history. When you lay a bundle of yellow daffodils on April 19th, you declare that you are part of celebrating the event that gave rise to a social movements and is a symbol to those very principles.
For those who are not familiar with Poland’s contemporary history, please note that 1983 was a year of martial law in Poland, imposed by the communist regime, this after the Solidarity Movement started in 1980. It was a very strict and severe martial law – between 1981 and 1983, with curfews and arrests and all public gatherings were banned.
People who dared to gather anywhere, for example at the Unknown Soldier monument in Warsaw, during Poland national holidays, banned by the communist regime, were arrested. They were also arrested on May 3rd, Constitution Day, or November 11 Independence Day. But not only during the Marital Law, rather anytime between 1939 and until 1945 – the end of WWII, when these holidays were obviously banned by the German Nazis and Russian Soviets on the territories occupied by them.
It goes without saying that Commemorations of the 1943 Warsaw Uprising were also banned. Only May 1st and other communist holidays were officially celebrated.
When we learn from history, we know that eventually and no matter what and how, the power of righteousness will always win somehow.
God bless people like Marek Edelman, Simon Wiesenthal and Elie Wiesel and their like who do not let us forget historical truth that brought upon our world evil of unfathomable proportions. The yellow daffodils tradition continues.